How to Make Stencils for Painting

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Stenciling adds a homey touch to walls, furniture or paper art such as greeting cards. Make and collect a variety of stencils to use for kids' art projects or home decorating. Be creative and don't be afraid to experiment with different designs until you find one you like.

  • Draw a desired pattern or choose a pattern from wallpaper, upholstery fabric or anything else that can be traced.

  • Place a sheet of tracing paper over the pattern. Trace pattern with a soft-tipped pencil. Repeat, if necessary, until you have a master tracing you are happy with.

  • Place another sheet of tracing paper over the master tracing.

  • Begin tracing the pattern, but this time make bridges. Bridges are what hold the stencil together and create the form. For example, if your design includes cherries in a bowl, draw the cherries as individual circles and draw the bowl as a separate shape that does not touch the cherries. Be sure the cherries do not touch each other as well. Keep tracing lines narrow.

  • Go over the tracing lines completed in step 4 with a felt-tipped marker.

  • Create a cutting key by gluing the bridged version of the design to an illustration board or smooth cardboard. Use rubber cement or spray glue that forms a thin coat and does not buckle the paper.

  • Cut a piece of stencil paper or acetate that is about 2 inches larger than the design.

  • Tape the edges of the stencil paper or acetate to the cutting key with masking tape. Be sure paper or acetate is secured over the design.

  • With a craft knife held perpendicular to the cutting key, follow the design and cut the stencil paper or acetate.

  • Begin cutting shapes in the interior of the design and work your way out. Hold the cutting key steady with one hand. Cut using a single stroke per line and apply steady pressure.

  • Remove the masking tape carefully from the stencil and lift the stencil off the cutting key.

  • Store the stencil in a folder for later use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Change the blade of your craft knife often while cutting.
  • If you happen to cut a bridge by mistake, use a small amount of tape to keep it together and trim off the excess tape.

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